The private sector must play a key role as explorer of the new clean economy. This is the key message from Bertrand Piccard, one of the most influential voices within climate change and sustainability, and a true pioneer when it comes to innovative mobility.

“Explorers understand that we have to free ourselves from old patterns of thinking and doing… You have to invent completely new ways to think.” This is the clear message from Bertrand Piccard, one of today’s most influential voices in climate change and sustainability innovation. He is urging the the private sector to join his quest for a new clean economy.

Scientific exploration is in Bertrand Piccard’s DNA. His grandfather Auguste was the first human to reach the stratosphere, his father Jacques the deepest point on Earth, and he himself flew around the globe in a plane powered only by the Sun.

In 2016 Bertrand Piccard made the first round- the-world solar flight to demonstrate what energy efficiency and renewable technologies are capable of. The aviator’s feat landed his plane, Solar Impulse 2, in the prestigious Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. But Piccard made aviation history in order to change the present – which he finds scarier than anything he’s faced.

“It is not flying around the world in a solar-powered airplane that makes me afraid, but to think that with each passing hour...we burn one million tonnes of oil, we deplete natural resources, we destroy the environment, we change the climate. This makes me really afraid,” says Bertrand Piccard. 

Explorer of profitable clean solutions

Piccard’s climate fears have turned him into an explorer of profitable clean solutions. The Swiss visionary will use them to recruit business explorers for a renewable energy transition. He is summoning the pioneering spirit that took man to the Moon to achieve his high ambition.

Piccard’s first step is to dispel the stubborn misconception that clean solutions are a luxury that few companies can afford, and he is leading a global campaign to show that protecting the environment and generating profits go hand in hand.

“The fact that now it is profitable to bring clean technologies onto the market is an argument that absolutely everybody should know,” Piccard says.

Clean energy has become cost-competitive as prices have continued to fall. The International Renewable Energy Agency expects green power to be cheaper than fossil fuel electricity by 2020. The higher upfront construction cost makes renewable energy look more risky, however over the lifespan of green projects, wind and solar are the least expensive power sources, according to asset management company Lazarus.

“Legislators are just ready to start requiring that, and you are going to lose market share if you are not able to go with that trend,” he warns.

We need a broad alliance – including deniers

Bertrand Piccard believes the climate change battle requires a broad alliance, including government, business, non-governmental organisations and even those who do not believe carbon emissions cause global warming. He makes his case to climate change deniers by leveraging the profit motive.

“A lot of people have no compassion, no love for the planet and for other human beings… We have to bring these people, even the climate change deniers on board by speaking their language. And what is their language? It is profit, and power, and personal advantage,” Piccard points out.

He is frustrated that with so much money to be made in clean energy, the dirty status quo remains entrenched and is getting worse. Last year greenhouse gas emissions started rising after remaining flat for almost four years, adding to the urgency for action on scaling renewables.

“Imagine the size of the markets if we were to replace all the old polluting systems with new modern and clean systems, new infrastructure, smart grids, new insulation of buildings, new types of heating, cooling and lighting systems and electric mobility. This is the biggest market of the century,” says Bertrand Piccard.

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